Bitter Orange for Skin — Calming for Oily Skin

Bitter Orange

We talked about the mandarin orange in a former post, and how it is perfect in lively, awakening cleansers. Bitter orange, however, is slightly different, with the main benefit being it’s ability to calm oily skin. Refreshing and balancing, it’s ideal for oily skin and those with clogged pores.


Used to make marmalades, the bitter orange is perfect for absorbing excess oil in oily skin types.

A Little Bit About the Ingredient Itself

Known scientifically as Citrus aurantium, bitter orange is also called Seville orange, sour orange, and marmalade orange. The Seville variety is actually the one used to produce marmalade, as it has a higher amount of pectin than the sweet orange, which helps it to set better.

The bitter orange tree is a spiny evergreen native to southern Vietnam, but now grown in a number of different countries, including the U.S., in California and Florida. The tree grows from 10-30 feet tall, has smooth brown bark, and flexible thorns. The spiny leaves are longer than those of the sweet orange, and are dotted with tiny oil glands. Flowers are highly fragrant, and may appear in singles or in small clusters, white with yellow stamens. The fruit has a rough, fairly thick skin, and the juice is very sour.

Internal Health Benefits of Bitter Orange

The bitter orange fruit is used in marmalades, as mentioned, but also in liquers such as triple sec and Grand Marnier. Bitter orange essential oil is expressed from the fruit, while neroli oil comes from the flowers (read more about neroli oil in our other post,). Manufacturers also use the flowers to distill orange flower water, which has long been used to freshen the air and in traditional Mediterranean dessert dishes.

Today, orange flower water is used in some cocktails, scones, and wedding cakes. Bitter orange oil expressed from the peel is also used to flavor candies, ice cream, gelatins and puddings, chewing gum, and even pharmaceutical products.

Bitter orange extract has been marketed as a weight-loss aid and appetite suppressant, but since it can increase blood pressure and heart rate, medical experts recommend caution. Dieters should check with their doctors first. Bitter orange, when taken orally, may also create interactions with other drugs such as cholesterol-lowering statins, in a manner similar to grapefruit.

Traditionally, bitter orange flower and bitter orange oil were used to help ease gastrointestinal upset, lower blood sugar in people with diabetes, and to stimulate blood circulation. It was also thought to help promote restful sleep, and to perk up “tired blood” or anemia. In aromatherapy, bitter orange has an awakening, stimulating effect.

Bitter Orange's Benefits to the Skin

One of the main benefits of bitter orange is its cleansing capability. It cleanses dirt, oily and impurities from the skin, calming and balancing — yet it doesn’t strip the skin as can some harsh over-the-counter synthetic formulas. After using a formula with bitter orange, skin feels balanced, refreshed, and ready for moisturization.

You can also apply cooled bitter orange tea bags to the eyes to wake up droopy eyes.

There is one caution when using bitter orange on your skin—it can make you more sensitive to UV rays, so be sure, as always, to use sunscreen and sun protection clothing to protect your skin.

Try It!

Enjoy the balancing properties of bitter orange in our Herbal Facial Oil for Oily Skin.

Do you enjoy bitter orange in other ways? Please share your thoughts.

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